WELL it didn't quite happen just as we hoped on Christmas morning, but nevertheless it's been great for some of us to be treated to smatterings of snow and all of us to bright frosty days.

For those of you lucky enough to have spared a few moments from the lure of the central heating and television set to take a brisk tour of the garden will have relished some real sights to rival any display of summer blooms.

There really is something quite magical about the garden under frost or snowfall and even the smallest detail that goes normally un-noticed becomes somehow transformed, even if it is for a few hours.

Just a simple outline of a tree or shrub that normally wouldn't merit a second glance can take on the grace and sparkle of a crystal chandelier when frosted.

There's nothing like frost or snow to really enhance the presence of fruits and berries in the garden, as a recent inspection of some Viburnum opulus confirmed as they peered out from their new white fluffy jacket.

Soon it won't just be my eye which is attracted because our feathered friends will be helping themselves. Still it never hurts to help these little fellows out during hard times.

I was really stopped in my tracks, however by the brilliant coral red stems of the Japanese Acer Senkaki which contrasted so perfectly with frost delicately highlighting even its tiniest stems.

A nearby dogwood (Cornus) so valiantly attempted to rival such a sight with its rich red stems, but I take no further convincing to add the acer to my garden later this year.

One also has to marvel at the brave blooms that do battle on regardless at this time of year. Mahonias, viburnums and of the course the faithful winter flowering pansy will always be hanging in there.

"But what about all the damage this stuff does to my garden?" I hear you cry.

Believe it or not there is very little damage that snow can do, with the odd exception of causing problems with its weight on fragile branches.

In fact during a cold spell a thick layer of snow acts as a very useful thermal blanket for plants, providing sanctuary from the extreme low temperatures all around.

Even the plants from warmer climes are quite happy to join in the fun, as some rather fluffy Cordylines and Phormiums at the garden centre will testify.

And if colder weather does soon follow that's all well and good according to Richard James, shop manager at Notcutts Garden Centre. "There's nothing better than a really cold snap to kill off the pests and diseases that over-winter on the plants," he said.

"It really is evident after a mild winter that the plants suffer from much greater insect and disease damage — although for us it does mean we sell more chemicals," he quipped.

"It's surprising just how many unwanted guests can survive the winter outdoors."